After the rigours of the last few days, today is a rest day, which is going to be very very welcome. The first thing to do is try and create some order out the unbelievable mess that I seem to have created in my room.
As I pack I follow the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, on my laptop. Unfortunately the Hilton Hotel does not have NBC Sports in its TV package, so I can’t actually watch the coverage as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg battle it out for this year’s World Championship.
The race finishes at about the same time as I am due to leave the hotel, so everything has worked out very well. I’ve arranged to meet Lee back at the Field Club for a possible round of golf this morning, but the weather is foggy, wet and dank and the idea doesn’t really appeal to me.
Just in case, though, I have put on my European Ryder Cup shirt, just to try and gain a slight psychological advantage.
Being a Sunday morning, the roads are quiet, but I very aware of all the car crashes I have seen over the last few days. I check each junction very carefully, before proceeding as apparently more and more people are running red lights in Omaha.
I get to the Field Club and Lee is waiting for me; he is of the same opinion as me and we decide not to play after all. I think that is a good decision, what I need today is rest and a three hour round of golf, followed by a three drive may not be the most sensible thing.
Instead Lee suggests we have breakfast at a nearby restaurant which is a favourite of his. I get into his car and he drives me to Lou Ms, a small but immensely popular Italian venue.
As soon as we are inside and seated I am charmed by the place. It has the patina of age (I could say the same of myself), and a wonderful collection of old posters and vintage kitchen equipment. It doesn’t feel designed though, and I get the feeling as if all of the collection started its life right there.
Lee recommends the Ham and Eggs, with Hash Browns. Somehow the English never do Hash Browns properly: it always ends up as a solid sort of potato burger. Here however the strands of fried potato look, and taste, delicious.
As we eat a lady comes up to the table and says: ‘are you Mr Gerald Dickens?’ It turns out she saw me performing at The Field Club two days ago. Ah, the price of fame!
When we have finished breakfast we drive back to the Field Club, where I set my sat nav for Kansas City, say a final goodbye to Lee and head out into the fog.
The Field Club is near to the freeway and soon I have set the cruise control for seventy and am eating up the miles.
The road is very flat and very straight: after all, why put in curves when there is nothing to go round (with the notable exception of Mound City).
In my weary state I am aware that this could be a very dangerous journey and already I can feel my eye lids heavy, and my blinks lasting longer than they should.
I drink water, open the window and turn the radio on.
So far on this trip I have spent almost every car journey going through lines for one of my other shows, but the performance of Doctor Marigold last night marked the final time that I am performing anything other than A Christmas Carol: no more lines to learn! (actually, not quite true, as I am performing a longer two-act version of ACC in one venue, and will need to work on that. But, not today!)
I find a station playing Christmas songs and settle into the season.
The road just seems never ending and there is little in the way of magnificent scenery in this part of the country.
The atmospheric conditions play some interesting tricks with ponds and lakes along the way. The mist hangs low over the water creating a magical, mystical scene. Next to one pond is a small cabin, which appears to be floating on the mist.
The road goes on. Strange how many names along this stretch are borrowed: Sidney, Hamburg, Oregon, Savannah and the very exotic sounding Amazonia.
As I get closer to Kansas City the weather draws in more. The fog gets thicker and the wind gets stronger. The huge American flags that adorn every car dealership, are straining against the flagpoles.
Soon I am following signs towards Liberty and pulling up outside the Hampton Inn. It seems so very familiar and there is a good reason for that: I was staying in the same hotel just a few weeks ago. Even the weather was the same back then.
Once I am checked into the hotel, I just check out. On the bed, lights off, and sleep.
So, while I am sleeping, let me fill you in with a bit of history:
My very first trip to the USA was in 1995 and I had been booked to appear at the Galveston Dickens Festival, in Texas. My father had attended the festival for three years, and before that his cousin had been the guest of honour.
Among the organising committee of the festival was a lady with relatives in Kansas City, who thought that it would be a wonderful idea to bring a similar festival to Missouri. In 1994 my father attended the first every Dickens Holiday Fair in the Kansas City Convention Center and when I made my first trip the following year, it was only natural that I should carry the family mantel.
The problem lay with timing. Galveston wrapped up on Sunday night and Kansas City opened on the following Friday. I had nothing to do for a week. The Kansas City organisers approached a local library, The Mid Continent Library Service, and suggested that I toured a few of the branches to perform my readings.
The events became incredibly successful and even after the Holiday Fair was no longer staged, I continued to work with Mid Continent, so that they are now my longest continuous booking.
There: I’m awake again now.
I get up out of bed and run a hot bath in the tub (the first hotel on this trip that has had a tub), and have a luxurious soak. Actually, it’s not that luxurious as the bath isn’t built for someone who is 5’10. 4’2 would be about the size, so my feet are stuck out over the edge. However it is a lovely way to relax.
As I drove in earlier this afternoon, I had noticed an Applebee’s restaurant nearby and so I get into the car and make my way there. It is dark now and the rain is still lashing as I get my head down and sprint through the puddles across the parking lot to the main entrance.
The layout of Applebee’s is reassuringly familiar: desk at the entrance, long ‘u’ shaped bar in the centre and tables around. A few years ago Applebee’s had an image change and cleaned up their restaurants, but this one seems to be of the old school with the walls and the ceilings covered with sporting memorabilia and eclectic Americana.
The menu has changed too: it is branded 54th Street and has a much more Southern feel to it. I don’t know what 54th Street means but make my choices.
As I wait for my food to arrive, I notice that all of the servers have 54th Street emblazoned across their T-shirts and slowly, very slowly, a thought creeps into my head: maybe, possibly, I have come to a different restaurant.
Sure enough my rapier-like mind slices through the problem and I conclude that I am sitting not in Applebee’s but a restaurant called 54th Street.
Whatever, the steak and baked potato is very tasty.
When I have finished I go back to my car and see Applebee’s Restaurant sitting demurely on the far side of the car park.
I return to the hotel; it is early and I know that by going to sleep I will probably wake early but when the episode of Law and Order suddenly morphs into Modern Family, I realise that it is time to give into the inevitable.
It has been a good day with plenty of rest and, more importantly, very little speaking.
Tomorrow I will be ready to perform with all of the passion and energy that the audiences deserve.